Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sorts of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Today, I’m chatting to the horror writer, Amy Grech. Amy like myself, is one of the writers featured in the Women of Horror Anthology, Vol 3 The One that Got Away published by Kandisha Press. Amy has sold over 100 stories to various anthologies and magazines including: A New York State of Fright, Apex Magazine, Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, Dead Harvest, Deadman’s Tome Campfire Tales Book Two, Expiration Date, Flashes of Hope, Fright Mare, Hell’s Heart, Hell’s Highway, Hell’s Mall, Needle Magazine, Scare You To Sleep, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, Tales from The Lake Vol. 3, Thriller Magazine, and many others. New Pulp Press published her book of noir stories, Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City. She is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers who lives in New York.
Welcome to the tearoom, Amy. Let’s order our drinks so what would you like to drink?
I’d love a Matcha latte while we chat! It’s such a colorful drink, Paula. Oh and I looking forward to your story in The One That Got Away!
And I’m looking forward to reading yours and all the other stories too. Can you tell us a little about your latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
I’m working on final edits of my noir novella set in New York City and also a dystopian novella set in the not-so-distant future that features: A Golden Ticket. A Gathering. A four-hour eating orgy. Cyanide. “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” meets “The Hunger Games”. The concept had been percolating for a year or so before I finished it in a frenzy.
My noir novella was inspired by a real life crime in Park Slope Brooklyn. A young woman was robbed at gunpoint; she escaped unharmed. I toyed with that scenario. I thought: what if that young woman was armed with a hot pink, leopard print concealed a Glock 26 9mm that she could use to defend herself and beat her assailant at his own game? I’m very pleased with how it turned out!
I actually wrote the dystopian novella for a particular publisher that missed the publication deadline in our contract—they had a year—but they failed to meet that deadline, so I requested my rights back, and its searching for a new home…
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
At least half a dozen. Some of them are story ideas that were never fully formed. Others are complete stories, but I got bored with the plot, characters, sometimes both and abandoned them for more promising projects. Now that I have more free time during the pandemic, I’ve revisited a few of that are salvageable; I’m in the process of submitting them to various publications. I also have a few poems, but I have to be in the right headspace to work on those.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? If you only write short stories do you plan your story, or let the characters lead you?
For my short stories, I’m definitely a pantser and proud of it. Flying by the seat of my pants is extremely exhilarating. I know a story is going well when my characters take over and I become a voyeur, along for the ride! I’m fortunate enough to have my characters in the driver’s seat more often than not.
I learned the hard way that it’s a good idea to refer to notes for novellas—I was wasting too much time repeating prose or mixing up characters’ last names. So awkward…Notes are also a great place to include research for reference. One of my novellas features a devious doctor. A scalpel is his weapon of choice, so I did my homework and learned the difference between a 10-blade, and a 15-blade; I also discovered that most scalpels are comprised of steel or titanium. Never overlook the importance of getting details right. I had a reader call out one of my stories because the gun a character uses doesn’t have a safety, but I wrote the story as though it had one, a glaring error.
Choosing only five of your favourite authors. Can you list them in order 1 begin the top of your list and say how have they influenced your writing?
- Shirley Jackson: Her story, “The Lottery”, works well on multiple levels. It examines mob psychology and the notion that people will abandon reason and act viciously if they are part of a large group behaving the same way. I explore a similar theme in my aforementioned dystopian novella.
- Stephen King: An aunt of mine gave me Pet Semetary and Cujo when I went to visit her with my parents and brother at the tender age of twelve. I’ve been reading his novels ever since. He inspired me to become a writer. His work explores the dark side of humanity, which can be morbidly fascinating.
- Ray Bradbury: His science fiction stories like, “There Will Come Soft Rains,” in which a house that has survived a nuclear blast in the year 2026 while its inhabitants have not. The house has automated systems, akin to a modern-day smart home. It goes about its daily routine, preparing breakfast for the family, etc., completely oblivious to the fact that they have become casualties of the fallout.
- Franz Kafka: I read his novella The Metamorphosis I found it quite unsettling—it made my skin crawl.
- H.P. Lovecraft: I share a birthday with him—August 20th—different centuries. I studied his work in college. The Call of the Cthulhu and the profound fear of otherness was intriguing.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Yes, Jack Masoch, was an ex. boyfriend of who broke up with me way back when in college. I thought we would end up married, but the feeling wasn’t mutual. Sadie O’Grady, was modeled on my domineering personality, in my story “Cold Comfort”, which appears in The One That Got Away anthology. I wrote this story as a way of grieving his loss.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I’m a full time freelance Digital Content Strategist, so my writing schedule fluctuates drastically. On days when I’m in between projects with clients, I can write for six or eight hours in one sitting. If I’m on deadline for one of my clients, I might only be able to squeeze in an hour or two.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
I aim for 1,000 – 3,000 words daily. There are days where I fall short, but I might get some related research in. Other days I might exceed my word count if I’m in the flow. I always value quality over quantity.
How many hours in a day do you write?
I try to set aside a few hours to write a few nights out of the week and also weekends. Not an easy feat—in addition to being a published crime/ horror author, I’m also a full-time freelance Digital Content Strategist and there are times when writing takes a back seat to client projects, especially if I’ve got a tight deadline.
I always carry a little, red notebook with me, so I can jot down story ideas anywhere, like on the subway ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I always listen to music when I’m writing—it helps me get into the zone—that magical place where ideas flow freely! The process is fairly fluid—I write first drafts in a stream of consciousness style—then a few days later I’ll go through and edit typos and check for consistency.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
Usually, names for my characters come together as the plot unfolds. I don’t know everything about them before I start writing their story. When I studied creative writing at Ithaca College, one of the instructors insisted that we prepare a life history for the characters in our work: where they were born, siblings, childhood friends, etc. While this practice can sometime be useful, I haven’t really done it since college, as it can be incredibly time-consuming.
How long on average does it take you to write a book, story and poem?
It varies. It took me a mere 10 minutes to write my poem, “Machine Gun/Latté”, published in the A New York State of Fright anthology in a small notebook I carry with me everywhere while I waited for a train in Penn Station. It was inspired by a National Guard solider I saw standing at attention holding a Starbucks coffee in one hand and his machine gun in the other. I can write and edit a short story in a month or less. A novella can take anywhere from six months to a year depending on how much research is involved.
Thank you for joining me in the tearoom, Amy. To find out more about Amy’s books and writing click on the links below:
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Members’ Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops, too.